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Atlantic Cape’s Annual Restaurant Gala Raises Record Amount for Culinary Student Scholarships

03/25/2024 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
Students from the Academy of Culinary Arts display the scholarship funds raised check

ATLANTIC CITY — It was an evening to celebrate a Springtime in Paris as more than 840 guests attended the 41st Annual Atlantic Cape Community College Restaurant Gala and helped raise a record $306,210 towards student scholarships while also honoring three deserving members of the community on Thursday, March 21 at the Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center in Atlantic City.

This year’s Gala recognized Travis Lunn, president and chief operating officer, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, as its Community Honoree and Chef Demetrios Haronis, 1990 Academy of Culinary Arts (ACA) alumnus and current executive chef at Tropicana Atlantic City, as its ACA Honoree. Gala sponsors this year included Platinum Sponsors Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Tropicana Atlantic City; Gold Sponsors Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind; and Bronze Sponsor Love, Tito’s.

“Thank you for being here to celebrate the 41st Annual Restaurant Gala, the most important scholarship event at the college. Our students attending the College’s Academy of Culinary Arts depend on your support,” said Atlantic Cape President Dr. Barbara Gaba. “We are very lucky to have such a caring community of support for the next generation of chefs, cooks and leaders. Thank you for attending this evening. I am truly honored and eternally grateful for your generous support.”

Borgata's Travis Lunn receives his awardAs the Community Honoree, Lunn recognized that this award was not just a personal achievement, but rather a reflection of the dedication to community relationships shown by his entire team at Borgata.

“Being recognized for the contributions made to Atlantic Cape and the Culinary Arts program is unexpected and it fills me with tremendous gratitude for the connectivity and collaboration of the Borgata team and our wonderful partners at Atlantic Cape,” said Lunn.

Lunn spoke highly of the hospitality industry and the benefits that Atlantic Cape students can obtain from it.

“Hospitality has the potential to be a wonderful and fulfilling career. It is diverse and comprised of multiple business pillars ranging from direct guest service roles to marketing roles to financial roles- there are many paths to success,” said Lunn. “My advice for those taking the first steps towards a new career is to embrace the adventure, and to treat both your guests and teammates with kindness and a servant/leadership attitude.”

Chef Demetrios Haronis receives his awardHaronis learned the art of cooking in his parents’ Wildwood restaurant at the age of 10 and honed his culinary craft and food philosophy at the ACA.

“The Academy of Culinary Arts was the cornerstone of what I built and continue to build my career upon,” said Haronis, who joined Tropicana as a sous-chef in 1994 and was ultimately promoted over the years to his current position. “It is great to be recognized and acknowledged for the hard work that we all do because we are mostly behind the scenes.”

Haronis is a firm believer in the value of higher education and the endless pursuit of it. “Never stop learning. What you put in is what you get out of it,” said Haronis. “Invest in learning and growing because the opportunities are endless. And, along the way, do not forget to give back to others and the community.”

ACA and Hospitality Management Director Joseph Sheridan received the American Culinary Federation (ACF) Professional Chefs Association of South Jersey’s Chef of the Year award from the local chapter’s President David Goldstein.

“This chef has inspired a lot of young talent, as well as many chefs in the area. When we need help he gets his people together to help us raise thousands of dollars to feed the homeless, honor our military veterans and support the local food bank. He sets an example for everybody,” said Goldstein while introducing Sheridan, who was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Chef Joseph Sheridan with his wife and David Goldstein“My journey with the ACF Professional Chefs Association of South Jersey began in 1994 as an ACA student and I have witnessed firsthand the impactful work this premier professional organization accomplishes. Being selected as our chapter's chef of the year for 2023 is a humbling honor,” said Sheridan. “Our local chapter's commitment to community service and support for budding chefs through scholarships is commendable. As the leader of an Exemplary-Level ACF accredited culinary program, I am proud to uphold the Academy's tradition of ACF membership and community engagement. To be considered among the esteemed previous winners of this award, individuals dedicated to their craft and mentorship, fills me with immense pride.”

Students from the Academy of Culinary Arts during the Gala cocktail hourStudents from the ACA created hors d’oeuvres for the lavish cocktail reception held in the lobby. Guests were then treated to a deliciously-eclectic mix of some of the region’s most delectable fine foods, signature dishes, desserts and some of the tastiest libations during a formal dinner in the Wildwood Ballroom. More than 50 South Jersey establishments, including long-standing participants Dock’s Oyster House, Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, Knife & Fork Inn, Renault Winery & Resort and Smithville Inn were on hand. Sample beverages from popular local wineries, breweries and distilleries were a hit with craft IPA beers, red and white wines, champagne and more.

Live musical entertainment from the “GrooveHeart Band” kept the jovial spirit of the evening moving as guests took to the dance floor.

Scene from the Gala cocktail hour festivitiesThe 50/50 raffle raised $23,400, half of which ($11,700) will go towards culinary student scholarships. The three winners split their share of the $11,700 three ways with the first-place winner Howard Kyle receiving 30%, second place winner Susan Jones 15% and third place winner Ashley Nelms 5%. A three-night trip to Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, complete with a $400 dining credit and $250 gift card, was won by Clifton Sudler and the private dining experience for six at the Old Homestead at Borgata was won by Samuel Giunta.

Raffle ticket proceeds support an emergency fund for students attending Atlantic Cape, regardless of program of study. This fund is crucial to supporting students that encounter unexpected financial emergencies so they may continue their studies.

Since its inception in 1984, the Atlantic Cape Restaurant Gala has raised more than $4.3 million for scholarships for students attending the Academy of Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program, an emergency fund, special projects and Atlantic Cape Foundation operations.

View a photo gallery from this year’s Restaurant Gala.

Visit for more information on the Restaurant Gala and the Academy of Culinary Arts.



About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape Community College is a Middle States accredited, 2022 Achieving the Dream Leader College and Hispanic Serving Institution proudly serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. As a comprehensive, two-year community college, Atlantic Cape offers 47 undergraduate degree programs, and 33 certificate and workforce development professional series programs at its Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Cape May campuses. Atlantic Cape is home to the renowned Academy of Culinary Arts, rated the top culinary school in New Jersey, and for more than 50 years, our highly-acclaimed Nursing program. Atlantic Cape also partners with more than 30 colleges and four-year universities to offer students the opportunity to seamlessly earn a bachelor’s degree upon graduation.